Should I give up or should I keep chasing fad diets?

Have you ever wondered whether the first cavewoman cared if her loincloth was making her look big? While we have no way of knowing because cavemen did not know how to write and left no records of their dieting habits, it is most likely that they ate what they had and did not care much about anything other than surviving.

Good Marketing Makes Good Money

It is hard to tell at what point in history did humans develop a physical ideal as the standard. But, looking back at the long and weird history of dieting, it becomes obvious that fad diets are far from being useless. They make the greatest businesses and have been around for long enough to prove that. Fad diets can also certainly do more harm than good. A study published in Lancet recently reported that bad diets now kill more people in the world than smoking.

The obsession with diets is not a new phenomenon and over the past decades, different foods and nutrients were promoted as the dietary arch-villains such as saturated fats, sugars, then fats again, and also gluten, only to be countered later by conflicting hypotheses and advice.

The History of Diets

The weight-loss fads of past centuries include precedents for all the main contemporary diets, from low-fat, low-calorie ones to high-fat, low-carbohydrate ones. Here’s a timeline, just for the fun of it:

  • 5000 BC It is unlikely that cavemen watched what they ate. They ate what they had.
  • 400 BC (Ancient Greeks) Hippocrates recommended people suffering from obesity to follow a strict diet, exercise, and vomit.
  • 1066 AD – William the Conqueror was so overweight that he couldn’t mount his horse, so he restricted himself to a liquid diet consisting of almost nothing but alcohol.
  • 1550s The world’s first ever diet book was written by Luigi Cornaro, an extremely overweight Italian who restricted himself to 12 ounces of food and 14 ounces of wine a day and advised others to do the same.
  • 1863 The first low-carbohydrate diets to reach a major audience was published by Willian Banting. Banting’s diet was high in calories with over 2800 calories. People were asked to give up bread and flour-based foods, potatoes, and sugars, and eat only fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. It soon became known that “banting” (as in I am banting) is a synonym for dieting in the UK and America up until the 1920s.
  • 1920s Calorie counting (Foods are calories): the thin and boyish figures for women became fashionable in the 1920, and so did fad diets such as the cigarette diet. Cigarettes were becoming popular and were being advertised as great diet aids. The first diet bestseller book urged women to look at food as calories and consume no more than 1200 calories a day.
  • 1950s Cabbage soup diet. While the creator of this diet is unknown, the cabbage diet continues to be popular till today, even though it appears to be nothing more than a formula for flatulence. 
  • 1960s The Weight Watchers were born (Fat is a sin): the boyish bodies were back in fashion, and the way to get it was by watching your fat. Fat is bad and low fat became the new norm. 
  • 1970s The Atkins diet (Carbs are to blame). The Atkins diet was developed by cardiologist Robert C. Atkins who devised the diet based on his own weight loss experiments. The Atkins Diet holds that eating too many carbohydrates, especially sugar, white flour, and other refined carbs, leads to blood sugar imbalances, weight gain, and cardiovascular problems. According to Atkins, eating too much isn’t that big of a deal.
  • 1997 Blood type diet (Forget it all…what’s your blood type?) According to the naturopath Peter D’Adamo, people should eat foods compatible with their blood type in order to go back to “the essential truths that live in every cell of your body”.
  • 2000s The Dunkan diet (It’s the carbs…again): cutting down on carbs and eating lots is back on trend. 
  • 2004 Gluten free diets (The rise of gluten). The popularity of gluten took a rise between 2004 and 2011 after a few studies claimed that avoiding gluten can have  huge health benefits for the average person, such as weight loss and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. The gluten-free diet has even been touted by celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Jenny McCarthy.
  • 2012 Intermittent Fasting (fasting is the way to go). The popularity of intermittent fasting has been increasing over the past decade. While some studies show positive attributes related to fasting, experts think the reason behind its success in weight loss to be related to caloric restriction.

Dieting Never Worked For You?

While people may initially lose a few kilos on any of these fad diets, the weight almost always comes back. Yet, we never seem to break this cycle and people are always looking to jump on the next diet gimmick. Have you ever asked yourself why do people spend all this effort, time, and money to lose weight yet continue to struggle?
Well, there is no nice way to break this to you, but it is because generic diets simply do not work!

What works is unique to every person. It depends on you and on your needs. The Valeo Health Coaches know that your diet is personal to you. Blood tests can reveal any underlying issues impacting your weight. With the Valeo app you can schedule your tests, monitor your biomarker results over time, and connect to the Valeo Health Coaches who can help you balance and improve your nutrition, energy, sleep or any wellbeing element that might be stopping you from feeling and looking your absolute best.

Your weight is in fact not the issue. It is the consequence of the interplay of many many underlying factors that are specific to your environment, your genetic makeup, your behaviors, society, culture, and policies. In order to achieve change, you need to look at all of these factors at the same time because if you miss any one of those pieces, your intervention or your diet are most likely not going to work. And that’s exactly the kind of holistic approach a Valeo Health Coach practices!